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Smart City Is A Complex System Of Systems

Smart city is the fusion of functional system like infrastructure system, bio-diversity system, governance system, citizen services system and many more.

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India has embarked on a journey to prepare for rapid Urbanization. URBAN Population in India today is standing at approximately 33.6% (44.3 Cr) and it may reach around 40% in the future.  Urbanization creates many problems like insufficient infrastructure, water & power scarcity, it is therefore important to bring flexibility and agility in delivering public services to citizens so that the urbanization problems can be addressed faster, better and steadier manner.

With the 100 smart cities initiative, hundreds of stakeholders from different disciplines like physical infrastructure, technology, governance, education, health, energy, and others are required to work cohesively within a smart city. Citizens’ involvement is very essential to develop “People friendly Cities,” which enhances the happiness, generosity, religious harmony and wealth creation opportunities. 

Smart City is nothing but the fusion of many FUNCTIONAL Systems – System of Systems. Building a Smart City is like playing a Symphony and requires orchestration of many instruments. This means an integrated framework is needed for smart cities, where, functional system must perform on its own and integrate with other functional systems to provide faster, better, steadier and cost-effective services to all stakeholders. City must move away from siloed department to an integrated System of Systems thinking.  

Smart City is an efficient, inter-operable, and integrated system of systems 

Each Functional System in the Smart City must manage the following elements very effectively to meet the planned expectations and objectives

●PROCESSES – Are the policies, processes, procedures mature and capable enough to deliver the required outputs and outcomes 

●PEOPLE – Do we have required talent and leadership to manage the system. Are we understanding the needs and wants of citizens to effectively serve them?

●THINGS - Are we leveraging the technologies to make THINGS Intelligent, that improves the operational excellence and citizen service quality (Things = cars, machines, equipment, roads etc.)

●DATA – Are we leveraging the data generated from different sources to take right decisions at right time or real time. 

Leveraging various digital technologies like Mobile, Social, Analytics, Cloud, IOT, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence(AI), Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality technologies, each FUNCTIONAL SYSTEM in the city will be driven by four Technology Systems (SOR, SOE, SOT, SOI) also called Digital System as mentioned below. 

  1. System of Records (SOR): Hyper automation of Processes in the City that optimizes human interventions and improves the productivity and outcomes of processes. This technology system generates data
  2. System of Engagement (SOE):   Developed to emotionally engage and connect the people by effectively meeting their emotional and human needs while performing their tasks. This technology system generates data
  3. System of Things (SOT):  Things in the City like Roads, Bins, Vehicles, ATMs, Buildings, Infrastructure become highly intelligent collaboratively work with people and reduce human interventions while executing tasks (e.g. maintenance, monitoring etc.). This technology system generates data

System of Insight: (SOI) Collate the data from System of Records, System of Engagement, System of Things and mine the data to get hindsight, insight and foresight to effectively manage the City.

  1. Creation & Delivery of Efficient Services with Integration of City Systems in the Smart City 

Cross-functional services can be offered with high flexibility and agility in real time through mobile devices, tablets, web and wearable devices. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants provide excellent services in real time when integrated with Citizen Services apps, while Fiber Optic Networks connected to each household in Smart City enable citizen services through IPTV at home without the need to go to Government offices.

Cross-functional/departmental data generated from System of Systems is mined and analyzed using Big Data Technologies, AI, and Machine Learning to get real-time hindsight, insight, and foresight to respond to various 

Citizens must refine and define new policies to remove the bureaucratic departmental approach. This is possible only when City Administration considers CITIZEN as GOD

  • Energy efficient, cost effective and scalable Smart City solutions 

Smart cities require ELECTRICITY, INTERNET, and COMPUTING POWER to manage the operations effectively and to deliver high-quality citizen services in real time. Smart Energy Grids and smart metering solutions built on IoT platforms have been contributing for optimal usage of power at homes, industries and other places. 

Each City must establish Fiber Grid and Cloud Grid like Energy grid to make sure that Internet Broadband and Computing Power are available to citizens like any other utilities. Smart Fiber Grid and Smart Cloud Grid solutions help in optimal utilization of internet broad-brand and computing power 

Most of the Smart City solutions requires a lot of sensors, equipment, devices, software. To build effective and scalable Smart city solutions, each city must embrace LEAN DIGITAL THINKING. That means LEAN (eliminating non-value adding activities (Waste)) and DIGITAL (bringing real-time communication, collaboration, omnipresence, predictability, autonomous) philosophies to be carried cohesively to build affordable and high-quality Smart City Solutions.


Smart city is the fusion of functional system like infrastructure system, bio-diversity system, governance system, citizen services system and many more. Each functional system is the fusion of many Technology Systems like System of Records (SOR), System of Engagement (SOE), System of Things (SOT) and System of Insight. Hence smart is a Complex System of Systems. This Integrated System of Systems must be managed effectively and efficiently to enhance Citizen Happiness and effective City governance.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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V. Srinavas Rao

The author is Chairman and MD, BT& BT and Chairman, Smart Cities working group, The IET India

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